Assorted and sundry links from around the Web

I’ve been wanting to mention a few upcoming items or recent articles for a while and came up with a list of exhibitions, articles, and videos – hopefully at least one of these will be of interest to you!

First, Gallery 5 in Lewiston has the opening for their next show, In Contrast, coming up this Friday, June 11th, 2010, from 5-7 pm.  The show will run until August 7, 2010, and includes a wide variety of excellent artists, including the beautiful work of my friend Ann Krumrein.  After the opening there will be an online exhibition as well – all definitely worth checking out.

From the comfort of your office chair, you can watch many hours of wonderful photography videos from various presentations at the TED conference.  If you don’t know what TED is, well, get on over there and see for yourself, but don’t blame me if you don’t come up for air until many hours later. ( TED describes itself as Riveting Talks by Remarkable People, Free to the World – sounds good to me).  On this page, you can see 14 different TED presentations about photography collected in one spot.  I’ve seen a number of them and can definitely recommend them – Taryn Simon, Edward Burtynsky, James Nachtwey, Chris Jordan – powerful stuff.

Photobooks are a particular passion of mine and one of my favorites was just selected by a panel of jurors set up by the British Journal of Photography.  The panel selected Fukase’s Ravens (a/k/a Solitude of Ravens) as the best photobook of the last quarter century.  There are many other interesting selections as well – in particular, one book I’ve been lusting after for a while, John Gossage’s The Pond, is on the list.  Like many on this list, it runs for north of $500 a copy now and is pretty hard for me to justify.  Ravens is quite expensive, too, but I got lucky a few years ago and found a very reasonably priced copy.  As an aside, the new British Journal of Photography website is quite nice and is definitely worth repeated visits.

New MMW Gallery in Rockport and Pete Turnley Show

I somehow missed this news previously, but the Maine Media Workshops is opening an entirely new gallery space in downtown Rockport – a great addition to this wonderful organization and an important boost to downtown Rockport.  Heather Frederick posted about this today and gives a bit more background.  The opening of the gallery and Peter Turnley’s exhibition is next Tuesday, June 8th, from 6:30-8 pm, and will be followed by a slide presentation at Union Hall.  I’m late hearing about this, but I’ll definitely be there – Turnley‘s work is exceptional and I can’t wait to see the new space.

Photography Lectures in Rockland

Last night I saw a great presentation at The Strand in Rockland, ME, by the always-excellent Brenton Hamilton about post-war (WWII, that is) photography, specifically Robert Frank, Frederick Sommer, and Chauncey Hare.  So, I’m too late to recommend that presentation to everyone, but there are two more presentations as part of this series put on by the Farnsworth Museum that both look well worth the time.  Here’s a description of the series – I plan on attending both evening presentations on 19th and 26th of this month.  As a general rule, I try to see any presentation given by Brenton – his knowledge and passion about photographic history are unmatched anywhere.

Plagiarism or Homage?

There is a minor ongoing Internet kerfluffle regarding the images of David Burdeny and whether or not his images, particularly his Sacred and Secular series, are copies of the work of other photographers.  (As an aside, I’m a fan of Burdeny’s work generally).  I first heard about this from the Conscientuous blog – posts here and here – and this issue is explained in much more detail, with many sample images, on the PDN blog here and here.  The details of this particular case are not what I am concerned about here.  (Though, for the record, my initial take was that the images were sufficiently different to be perfectly acceptable – but Burdeny’s own defense hurt his case in my eyes as it convinced me that he is very possibly in the wrong here.  The similarity of the gallery installations, and the remarkable coincidence of so many shared locations, also worries me.  And please note that I am only talking about the ethics of the situation, not any legal issues.)

So what am I concerned about?  I think this is an issue that impacts all photographers, particularly ones that photograph images centered on place.  If you are a serious photographer, you likely study the works of other photographers and many of those will influence you, either directly or subconsciously.  If you photographing relatively famous subjects, whether it be the Bubbles in Acadia or Half Dome in Yosemite, you certainly will be walking in the footsteps of other photographers (or positioning your tripod right next to someone else) and therefore run the risk of copying the work of others, subconsciously or otherwise.

For me it all comes down to intent.  If you study photographers and go to some of the same locations as them, many of your images will likely be similar to ones you have seen.  If you intentionally try to copy someone else’s work and pass it off as your own, however, you are the one who has to look in the mirror each day as such an action is clearly inappropriate.  Of course, many photographers emulate previous shots for legitimate reasons, such as having a record of being there, for educational purposes (what do I need to do to replicate this?), or just because of physical limitations (using the same pull-out in a national park looking over the bend in the Snake River).  Some similarities in photographs, particularly those taken from more common locations, can be completely appropriate, but photographers should take care not to mimic the work of others as, beyond any ethical issues, I believe it can stunt the growth of your own unique and personal style.

As you develop your own personal style, I believe that images will start to become unmistakenly yours even when taken from the same iconic locations.  I know for me, when I go to a well-known location, I try to take photographs I don’t think anyone else has taken – and because I can be somewhat competitive, I try to better what I’ve seen before.  Building upon the work of others, after all, is essential to the history of art itself.

So, what do I recommend?  Don’t worry about “polluting” yourself by studying the work of others – because to do so you will sacrifice one of the best ways of improving your art.  Go out and take photographs and, if you have to, get those iconic shots that “everyone has done” out of your system.  After that, though, seek out images from those locations that are different from what you have seen before.  And, with some luck and skill, maybe you can surpass those early images or provide a fresh perspective.  Or, simply try to find less iconic locations and make them your own.

Peter Turnley on Haiti

Just posted this morning is an excellent (and heartbreaking) piece of that increasingly rare beast, long form photojournalism.  Peter Turnley’s photographs provide a striking narrative of the recovery (or at least the beginnings of a recovery) for Haiti approximately three weeks after the devastating earthquakes.  Kudos to Mike Johnston’s The Online Photographer for providing the platform for these 60 photographs from Peter Turnley.  Highly recommended.